Aadhaar: UIDAI and the ‘fifth column’ of Napoleon—Part 19

Most of those who are in public life are in the ‘fifth column’ because of either their naivety or their seemingly apolitical tunnel vision for UIDAI’s Aadhaar project, which makes them act treacherously in a historical vacuum

It is said that once on a military campaign Napoleon Bonaparte, a military and political leader of France, stood outside his tent in the battlefield facing the most fortified castle of an European city and said, “Once this city is taken, nothing will stop my campaign, and I'll soon be Emperor of France" with my five army columns. Everybody knew about his four columns of army but not the fifth. When asked about his 5th column, Napoleon replied, "My fifth column is within the city itself!” Soon the gate keepers of the castle were clubbed to death, the huge gates swung open, and Napoleon's soldiers marched through. The "fifth columnists" told him about the barracks full of soldiers kept to defend the city. Napoleon woke them and asked them to join him or die. The city fell in no time and Napoleon did indeed go on to become Emperor of France with the help of the fifth columnists.

There is an unacknowledged relationship between the biometric Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar project and the US-based National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA). The latter was set up in 1919 to scale up the war effort during World War-I. Since then, it has been “promoting national security” of the US and 'institutionalising' Biometrics Enabled Identification based on Automatic Identification Technologies (AIT). The same National Defense Industrial Association-sponsored Unique Identification (UID) Industry Leadership Advisory Group (ILAG) that was organised “in March 2005  at the suggestion of the US Department of Defence (DoD) UID Program Manager to serve as a defense industry focal point for government-industry collaboration and coordination in developing UID implementation policy and procedures.”

Notably, Defence Procurement and acquisition policy office in the US DoD has a Unique Identification” (UID) section for “in tracking and reporting the value of items the Government owns”, “Item Unique Identification (IUID) Standards for Tangible Personal Property” and “Unique Identification (UID) Standards for a Net-Centric Department of Defense” that cites “Department of Defense Chief Information Officer (CIO) Memorandum, “DoD Net-Centric Data Strategy”” dated 9 May 2003.

It is stated that IUID requirement does not apply to “software, manuals, etc.” and “commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) items” but it applies to “not-for-profit contracts such as research contracts with universities”, “classified items”, “foreign military sales”, “small businesses”, “government-furnished property”, “Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) requests” “models, prototypes, or development items delivered to DoD”. 

US Department of Defence uses both Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Item Unique Identification (IUID). “Within IUID, the unique item identifier (UII) is a piece of data associated with an item that uniquely identifies it throughout its life. RFID is a vehicle for holding and sharing data. IUID of tangible items deals with physical markings applied directly (or indirectly via label, data plate, etc.) on items. IUID also requires data to be captured about the item and submitted electronically to a registry database. It is thought of as creating a birth certificate for the item. On a superficial level, IUID and RFID employ different technologies. IUID utilises an optically scannable 2-dimensional data matrix barcode to carry information whereas RFID utilises some form of integrated circuitry to encode information and produce radio waves which can be received and interpreted at a greater distance with a radio antenna and receiver.

Notably, RFID has been recommended in India for installation vehicles and libraries. A briefing paper of Government of India observed that “Information or an opinion about an individual” is personal sensitive information.

Functionally, IUID’s purpose within the (US) DoD is “to uniquely identify individual items”. The purpose of RFID within the (US) DoD is “to identify cases, pallets, or packages which contain items”. UID Policy Office of US DoD has a number of working groups to support the development and implementation of the UID policy. These include Working Groups on: Logistics IUID Task Force, Industry Leadership Advisory Group (ILAG), Wide Area Work Flow (WAWF)/UID/RFID Users Group, Property Management, Joint Aeronautical Commanders, Government Furnished Property Industry, Federal Acquisition Regulation, Business Rules, Standards, Implementation, Technical Interface and IUID Quality Assurance.

Biometrics technology companies like Raytheon Company who were awarded by National Defense Industrial Association in 2009 participated in the ILAG. They have created an artificial need to sell their surveillance products in India unmindful of its dehumanising ramifications. It is these entities which are behind the biometric UID/Aadhaar project and the Bill to sell their products.

The preamble of The National Identification Authority (NIDAI) Bill, 2010 which was rejected by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance reveals that it is meant “for the purpose of issuing identification numbers to individuals residing in India and to certain other classes of individuals”. There are two parts to the phrase “individuals residing in India and to certain other classes of individuals”.


The first part refers to “resident” as an individual usually residing in a village or rural area or town or ward or demarcated area (demarcated by the Registrar of Citizen Registration) within a ward in a town or urban area in India.” This motivated definition of the term resident in the Section 2 (q) of the NIDAI Bill accords wide scope to the Bill. It leaves the definition vague about the Indians who are residing abroad temporarily, non-resident Indians (NRIs), persons of Indian origin (PIOs) and refugees. By now, Indians know that there are NRIs and PIOs of all ilk and shades whose role merits rigorous attention. The second part of the phrase is “certain other classes of individuals”. The first part is defined but the second part has not been defined.


The National Identification Authority (NIDAI) Bill, 2013 which was re-approved by the Union Cabinet on 8 October 2013 was listed for introduction in the winter session of the Parliament between 5th to 18 December 2013, but it could not be introduced. In the new version, “certain other classes of individuals” have been substituted with “certain other categories of individuals to enable establishing the identity.”


In the NIDAI Bill 2010, Section 4(3) reads, “An Aadhaar number shall, subject to authentication, be accepted as proof of identity of the Aadhaar number holder.”


In the NIDAI Bill, 2013, Section 4 (3) reads, “An Aadhaar number in physical or electronic form, subject to authentication and other conditions as may be specified by regulations, shall be accepted as proof of identity and proof of address.” Along with it is added an “Explanation—For the purposes of this sub-section, the expression “electronic form” shall have the same meaning as assigned to it in clause (r) of sub-section (1) of section 2 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Section 9 of the Bill reads: “The Authority shall not require any individual to give information pertaining to his race, religion, caste, tribe, ethnicity, language, income or health.” The issue here is once someone has been biometrically profiled and identified ‘Prohibition on requiring certain information’ becomes irrelevant. But the question is how biometric information is less sensitive than information regarding race, religion, caste, tribe, ethnicity, language, income or health collection of which is prohibited?

Section 10 of the Bill reads: The Authority shall take special measures to issue Aadhaar number to women, children, senior citizens, persons with disability, migrant unskilled and un-organised workers, nomadic tribes or to such other persons who do not have any permanent dwelling house and such other categories of individuals as may be specified by regulations.” It does not reveal or define the “special measures” being deployed to trap these categories of people in the database.


The Bill makes a specific distinction between the “identity information” in respect of an individual means biometric information, demographic information and Aadhaar number of such individuals” and “demographic information” that includes information relating to the name, age, gender and address of an individual (other than race, religion, caste, tribe, ethnicity, language, income or health), and such other information as may be specified in the regulations for the purpose of issuing an Aadhaar number. It refers to “biometric information” as “a set of such biological attributes of an individual as may be specified by regulations.” It is important to note that although Planning Commission or Ministry of Home Affairs does not have the legal mandate to collect biometric data instead of seeking that mandate under the NIDAI Bill, there is once again an effort being made to do it through sub-ordinate legislation.


The Bill defines “Central Identities Data Repository” (CIDR) as “a centralised database in one or more locations containing all Aadhaar numbers issued to Aadhaar number holders along with the corresponding demographic information and biometric information of such individuals and other information related thereto.” It is not made clear as to why CIDR will be at “one or more locations.”


Now, if one looks at the definition of “authentication” in the Bill which is defined as “the process wherein, Aadhaar number along with other attributes (including biometrics) are submitted to the Central Identities Data Repository for its verification and such Repository verifies the correctness thereof on the basis of information or data or documents available with it,” it implies that authentication using CIDR of an “Aadhaar number holder”, an individual who has been issued an Aadhaar number, will be done at “one or more locations.”


It is quite apparent that these locations can be private companies. In effect, a private company of Indian or/and foreign origin will authenticate whether a resident of India is definitely the same person as he/she claims to be. As an implication identity of an Indian citizen is going to be decided by a company, which can be a National Information Utility (NIU), a private company with a public purpose with a profit making as the motive but not maximising profit.     

Most of those who are in public life are in the fifth column because of either their naivety or their seemingly apolitical tunnel vision which makes them act treacherously in a historical vacuum. It is evident that in India, knowingly or unknowingly many institutions and individuals are acting like this column, a party that is acting with the foreign and corporate entities to subvert the very idea of India and Indian civilisation under the influence of their supervisors.

Do Indians need to ponder over—who all are in the fifth column, which institutions are acting like this column and isn’t there a need to know the identity of those in the column in question?

You may also want to read…


Why biometric identification of citizens must be resisted? Part I

Biometric identification is modern day enslavement -Part II

Biometric profiling, including DNA, is dehumanising -Part III

Marketing and advertising blitzkrieg of biometric techies and supporters -Part IV

History of technologies reveals it is their owners who are true beneficiaries -Part V

UID's promise of service delivery to poor hides IT, biometrics industry profits –Part VI

Technologies and technology companies are beyond regulation? -Part VII

Surveillance through biometrics-based Aadhaar –Part VIII

Narendra Modi biometrically profiled. What about Congress leaders?-Part IX

Aadhaar: Why opposition ruled states are playing partner for biometric UID? -Part X


Is Nandan Nilekani acting as an agent of non-state actors? –Part XI


Aadhaar and UPA govt's obsession for private sector benefits–Part XII


Are Indians being used as guinea pigs of biometric technology companies? -Part XIV

Aadhaar: Is the biometric data of human body immortal and ageless? Part XV

Aadhaar: The propaganda of transnational vested interests –Part XVI


Aadhaar: Pakistan handed over, India giving database on a platter– Part XVII

Engineered row in US-India relations, an attention diversion tactics of big brothers?—Part XVIII


(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)

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